‘Reflect on the lives you continue to enhance’
One unforgettable moment
Last year my daughter Amelia was born. I remember feeling immensely proud of myself for getting through the whole thing before I was hit with a wave of anxiety and responsibility which left me feeling rather overwhelmed. I soon realised my life would never quite be the same again, and I would now always be somewhat unreliable and incompetent as I faced the challenges of motherhood and all the joy that it brings.
In trying to be helpful I have a real tendency to ‘take over’ tasks especially in my personal life, which can be disempowering for others. I have learnt to ‘sit on my hands’ more and support and encourage my loved ones, but there’s still more work to do.
Baroness Susan Greenfield. When I was 15, deciding what subjects to study at A-level and more broadly what career to pursue – and feeling like I hadn’t a clue – I was fortunate enough to attend a talk she gave. She talked about her love for science, in particular brain physiology. I subsequently followed her work and felt empowered that women can succeed in science.
One important decision
Choosing which particular area of psychology to pursue after leaving university. I had always been interested in occupational psychology and had enjoyed the teaching at university. My thesis also involved carrying out research within a workplace setting so I felt my future was already decided. However, clinical psychology interested me. The turning point was when a close family member suffered with significant anxiety and engaged in talking therapy which was most beneficial. This motivated me to find out more about the profession. I was fortunate to be able to complete a work experience placement over the summer within a local hospital and shadow a clinical psychologist. The work was extremely rewarding, and I was fascinated by how much human behaviour could differ. I was left with the question: ‘Why do we do the things we do?’ I decided to go for it and pursued a career in clinical psychology, and I have no regrets.
One proud moment
Winning a Health Service Journal Patient Safety Award in 2015 for our Family Work Service, which I designed and led. When I was working as a clinical psychologist across a number of acute inpatient wards, we used to receive complaints from family members, and the teams felt they lacked skills in working with carers and loved ones. We managed to form a small team (three nurses, two doctors, and myself) of family workers who were provided with additional training and launched a service across the wards to provide support and intervention for families and service users. Outcome data showed the benefit in terms of carer and service-user wellbeing, and we also reduced the number of complaints so the Trust were happy!
One influential person
Professor Derek Johnston, my undergraduate research supervisor, was very kind and patient with me. He taught me how to go about conducting research and emphasised the importance and rationale for contributing to an evidence base. I carried out an interesting study looking at the balance between staff effort at work and rewards received, and the impact imbalance can have on a person’s wellbeing. I still hold the effort–reward model in mind and try and encourage myself to not let my work and life roles get out of balance.
One thing I’d like to do more
Play the piano. At one time I was quite good! However, following university with my focus on getting an assistant psychologist post and the lack of space in my small flat, piano playing slipped off the radar. I only play as a treat nowadays when visiting my parents.
Agios Tychonas in Cyprus. I visit once a year and it truly feels like home. The environment allows an escape from ordinary life and reality. Being there offers a chance for reflection and the opportunity for my mind to have a well-deserved rest.
One final thought
To my fellow psychologists, we are all aware of how tough it is managing increasing workload with limited funding within the NHS and lots of our effort–reward models may feel imbalanced. At times, as a profession, I don’t think we give ourselves enough praise or ‘show off’ the great work we do on a daily basis. No matter what grade you are or stage of your career, every now and again reflect on the brilliant work you do and the lives you continue to enhance and change.
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